Cobb’s Mike Boyce remembered for service, kindness

Cobb Chairman-elect Mike Boyce poses for a portrait at his home, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in East Cobb. Boyce had recently defeated incumbent Chairman Tim Lee in a Republican primary runoff. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

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Cobb Chairman-elect Mike Boyce poses for a portrait at his home, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in East Cobb. Boyce had recently defeated incumbent Chairman Tim Lee in a Republican primary runoff. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

There aren’t many people who earn the right to call their pastor “kid.” But Mike Boyce did.

Rev. Jody Ray said Wednesday he’ll never forget the term of affection from Boyce, who died Tuesday at age 72.

Boyce kept his sense of humor during tough moments in life: his 30 years as an active Marine, his ministry at Mt. Bethel Church in Marietta, his 2016 ousting an incumbent to take the Cobb Board of Commission chairmanship.

Campaigning while never having held elected office is a tough road, but Boyce smoothed it over with a broad grassroots campaign. He said he reached 100,000 voters by phone (including via the five lines during campaign season at his family’s Sope Creek home) or at doorsteps.

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Cobb County Commission chair candidates Mike Boyce (left) and incumbent Tim Lee are shown during an Atlanta Press Club debate. (KENT D. JOHNSON/kdjohnson@ajc.com)

Cobb County Commission chair candidates Mike Boyce (left) and incumbent Tim Lee are shown during an Atlanta Press Club debate. (KENT D. JOHNSON/kdjohnson@ajc.com)

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Cobb County Commission chair candidates Mike Boyce (left) and incumbent Tim Lee are shown during an Atlanta Press Club debate. (KENT D. JOHNSON/kdjohnson@ajc.com)

Boyce beat the late Tim Lee on a platform of transparency. Honesty resonated because many voters viewed this as their chance to finally repudiate Lee’s back-room deal of using some $400 million in taxpayers funds to woo the Braves from Atlanta.

While both Republicans, they campaigned in different ways: A political action committee aired television commercials on Fox News touting Lee’s conservatism, and without money Boyce knocked on doors.

Once elected, Boyce had to convince the business community that an unknown entity like him was trustworthy despite having just gotten rid of the man who brought one of the metro’s biggest draws to town.

By the end, said Cobb Chamber CEO Sharon Mason, he had won over businesses owners. “He was a great leader, a great man, a veteran and we’re incredibly grateful for his leadership and service to our community,” she said.

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Cobb County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Boyce speaks to business officials during a Cobb Chamber of Commerce meeting. Cobb officials are seeking survey responses from Cobb business owners at CobbCounty.SeamlessDocs.com/f/edsurvey. Courtesy of Cobb County

Cobb County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Boyce speaks to business officials during a Cobb Chamber of Commerce meeting. Cobb officials are seeking survey responses from Cobb business owners at CobbCounty.SeamlessDocs.com/f/edsurvey. Courtesy of Cobb County

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Cobb County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Boyce speaks to business officials during a Cobb Chamber of Commerce meeting. Cobb officials are seeking survey responses from Cobb business owners at CobbCounty.SeamlessDocs.com/f/edsurvey. Courtesy of Cobb County

Bob Ott was the lone county commissioner to back Boyce’s campaign. Now out of office, Ott said they would often meet up for breakfast to talk about their personal lives and a bit about politics. Ott said Boyce was energetic in his role as commissioner, and also at their church.

Boyce became more active at Mt. Bethel following his retirement, Ray said, working in the recreation department painting lines on fields and coaching children. Boyce served 30 years in the Marines, retiring as a Colonel who’d toured all over the world.

The pastor remembers the mother of a young Marine reached out to Boyce saying her son was having trouble. Boyce called the young man, telling him to meet at Columns Drive in one hour, Ray said. The pair ran miles together. And Boyce told him it would be tough, but he’d be just fine.

Now a successful Marine, that young man called Ray wanting to volunteer for Boyce’s ceremony.

“When you were around Mike, you were the most important person standing in front of him at that moment,” Ray said.

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Mike Boyce hugs Cobb State Court Judge Marsha Lake after he was sworn in. At right is his wife, Judy. In a ceremony at the Cobb Civic Center, Mike Boyce was sworn in as Cobb County’s next chair. (BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM)

Credit: Bob Andres

Mike Boyce hugs Cobb State Court Judge Marsha Lake after he was sworn in. At right is his wife, Judy. In a ceremony at the Cobb Civic Center, Mike Boyce was sworn in as Cobb County’s next chair. (BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM)

Credit: Bob Andres

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Mike Boyce hugs Cobb State Court Judge Marsha Lake after he was sworn in. At right is his wife, Judy. In a ceremony at the Cobb Civic Center, Mike Boyce was sworn in as Cobb County’s next chair. (BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM)

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Boyce was fond of his military service but didn’t brag, said Walter Cusick, Jr., commander of the American Legion Post where Boyce was a member.

Cusick said Boyce didn’t try to take over Post 29 meetings.

“When he came here, he was just a member like everyone else,” Cusick said, but it was obvious: “He was a leader without him having to tell you he’s a leader.”

Boyce died in Indiana because he returned to Notre Dame last year for the school’s Inspired Leadership Initiative program, said his wife Judy Boyce.

“He had never been happier than he was in the past few months, participating in this program, bicycling to campus and interacting with and mentoring students,” she wrote. “He was having the time of his life.”

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Mike Boyce shares a laugh with supporter Nancy Naidu over her shirt during his watch party at Williams Brothers BBQ on his way to winning the Cobb county commission Chairman's race in Marietta. (Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Mike Boyce shares a laugh with supporter Nancy Naidu over her shirt during his watch party at Williams Brothers BBQ on his way to winning the Cobb county commission Chairman's race in Marietta. (Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

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Mike Boyce shares a laugh with supporter Nancy Naidu over her shirt during his watch party at Williams Brothers BBQ on his way to winning the Cobb county commission Chairman's race in Marietta. (Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Republican leaders statewide — Gov. Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black — mourned his death.

As did Democrats. “He was firm, fair, and a friend,” tweeted state Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna.

Tuesday night’s Cobb Board of Commissioners meeting began with a moment of silence for Boyce, who became the subject of impromptu tributes throughout the evening.

Chairwoman Lisa Cupid, a Democrat who defeated Boyce when he sought re-election in 2020, said his death was “devastatingly sad news.”

“You always saw him at some community event doing something to serve someone,” Cupid said.

“...When you’re in this seat, the county is your life.”

Staff writer Brian Eason contributed to this story.

ExploreRead and sign the online guestbook for Mike Boyce
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Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce and his wife Judy attend a recent farewell reception for him and for Commissioner Bob Ott at the Cobb County Civic Center. (Courtesy of Cobb County)

Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce and his wife Judy attend a recent farewell reception for him and for Commissioner Bob Ott at the Cobb County Civic Center. (Courtesy of Cobb County)

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Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce and his wife Judy attend a recent farewell reception for him and for Commissioner Bob Ott at the Cobb County Civic Center. (Courtesy of Cobb County)

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